Given on September 11, 2011.  The readings for the day, the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary time eerily speak to the moment.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/091111.cfm

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.”  Ten years ago, we felt the hot breath of wrath.  We saw the inevitable violent destination of anger.  And it seemed on that day, that we were looking sin right in the face.

What did  you experience on that day?  What did you feel?  Did you note innocence, terror and bravery?  Did you feel your own anger, pride, unity, fear?  What have you felt since that day as we have lost so many lives in combat, as we have fought the longest war in American history?  Some of those emotions shift or re-focus.  Loss.  Loss does not go away.

Yet, nothing seems to have a hold on us as much as vengeance.  It rests in our human marrow, seeking release to relieve the pressure built within.  We felt the desire for vengeance ten years ago.  We know why we want revenge.  It seems the only justice that could be possibly satisfying.  We feel a need get even.  We want to respond to our sense of powerlessness with power.  Yet, Sirach knows it is the ancient curse.  He reminds us that we are more forgiven than forsaken.  That God’s mercy is constantly with us.  Vengeance turns out to be an endless regression that can never determine who hurt who first.

And then comes Jesus.  How many times must I forgive?  Seven times? No, seventy-seven.  “You must forgive your brother or sister from the heart.”  If you are struck on the right cheek, offer your left.  If  you are pressed into service for one mile, go two.  If someone takes your tunic, give them your cloak as well.  Love your enemies.  He preached madness, a madness that could easily be dismissed were it not so utterly consistent with his life, offering his body for our sins, with a dying breath, “Father, forgive them.  They know not what they do.” 

Jesus points to another way.  Rather than respond with the  unending sacrifices of violence, Jesus calls for an answer of love in ever moment, despite the provocation.  There may be no more important reason for Jesus’ incarnation than to break the cycle of violence.  Rather than feeding the hot cauldron of violence, Jesus challenges us to create a bastion of love.  But what does that look like?

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I was in a bastion of love.  I was at the Michael Canty Scholarship Run for Fun.  I still have no idea what fun has to do with running, but the chicken was delicious.  Our Ed and Kay Kanty lost their son Michael on 9/11.  But they have not left the way he died define them.  They have created a scholarship program for graduating seniors at Schenectady High, the have invested in the city they love with proceeds from their efforts.  An entire community came together to support the Canty family.  There was laughter, joy and peace.  And Michael’s light shimmered forth.  It was everything a Christian community should be. 

So let us dare to respond differently.  Let our answers alway be the love of Jesus.  And when we see the face of sin, let us show the face of Christ.

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